Black money pursuit: Swiss amend key law on foreign requests

Responding to the pressure coming from India and other nations, Switzerland has introduced key changes in its local laws pertaining to assistance to foreign countries in their pursuit of black money allegedly amassed in Swiss banks.
These amendments would allow India and other nations to make ‘group requests’ for information about suspected black money stashers, while Swiss authorities would not give prior intimation to suspected individuals or entities before exchanging their information. However, the burden would be on India (or any other country making request) to prove that any prior intimation to the account holders before information sharing would defeat the “purpose of the administrative assistance” and the success of investigation would be impacted.
In one of the main bottlenecks to effective and timely sharing of information with foreign authorities about suspected illegal account holders, the Swiss laws provide that the person concerned would be prior intimated of any such international assistance and he or she is also given an opportunity to appeal against this move and examine the files before being shared to the requesting country.
Although Switzerland has decided to hang on to these clauses in its amended Federal Act on International Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters, it has now introduced at least 10 amendments in this Act to moderate its famed banking secrecy policies to improve its information-sharing framework. However, the new Act clearly stipulates that the Swiss authorities would not consider a request if “it constitutes a fishing expedition” or “if it violates the principle of good faith, particularly if it is based on information obtained through a criminal offence under Swiss law.”
][This would impede India’s endeavors to seek information on the so-called HSBC list, which Switzerland alleges that Indian and other foreign authorities got into their hands after a former bank employee stole data about customers.



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